| The News Record)
The Running of the Bulls.
The Bearcats played host to lowly South Florida on Sunday afternoon, and I feared a bit of a hangover following an emotional win over Xavier on Thursday. For eight minutes, I was right. The two teams slugged it out to a 12–12 tie before the Bearcats blew it apart, going on a 74–28 run to take a 46-point lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Sunday was the ultimate manifestation of how good the Bearcats can be, and how lousy the bottom of their conference is.
Here’s what happened:
- It’s Jarron Cumberland’s world.We’re all just living in it. The freshman exploded for 26 points off the bench, the most by a Bearcat since a freshman Sean Kilpatrick reeled off 26 against Wright State in December 2010. During one stretch of the second half red-and-black drag race, Cumberland had 18 of UC’s previous 20 points. That, needless to say, is insane. He looked extremely comfortable shooting the deep ball as well as driving the lane to draw the foul. I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll see JC drop bombs like this a few more times in the coming years. Oh, and he also chipped in three rebounds, three assists, and four steals. Because why not?
- Tre Scott is this team’s silent assassin, or maybe he’s more like a Swiss Army Knife.He does so many things well, and he does them all quietly. He played just 17 minutes on Sunday, yet stuffed the box score with nine points, seven rebounds, and five steals. He even banked home a three-pointer. I wasn’t sure what we’d get from Scott this season, but he’s been a terrific piece that will be valuable coming down the stretch.
- THE BENCH. Take a photo of the box score, because this is something you rarely see, especially in a conference game, and especially from UC: The Cincinnati bench outscored the Bulls as a team… by seven points. The UC bench scored 60 points while the USF team scored 53. Nuts.
- Justin Jenifer is an assist factory. Aside from the 12 points and five rebounds, the kid delivered nine assists against USF. Since the start of the 2010–11 season, a Bearcat has racked up nine or more assists in a game 11 times. Troy Caupain has done it four times, Cashmere Wright has done it three times, Dion Dixon did it once. Justin Jenifer has done it three times off the bench, and he still hasn’t played two full seasons. I can’t even wrap my head around that.
- Quadri Moore did some things. He shot 0-for-4 from the field and had a token traveling violation. However, he also got to the line and (easily) sunk all four of his free throws, recorded a block, and picked up three assists, including this beauty:
- The defense looked good, albeit against a pretty terrible offense. (USF is literally Bottom 40 nationally in AdjO.) The Bulls shot just 33%, and the Bearcats iced the cake with four blocks and fifteen steals. That’s the most swipes the Bearcats have tallied since Arkansas-Pine Bluff in November 2015, and only the sixth time since the start of the 2010–11 season they’ve broken 15 steals. Scoring at this level while playing defense at this level makes the Bearcats one of the best teams in the country. Believe that.
- The three-point defense continues to be a bit suspect. The Bulls’ 6-for-13 mark from outside is the kind of thing that will continue to worry me. Hopefully that’s mostly a product of not taking USF seriously, because these Bearcats don’t have a serious hole for opponents to exploit… Let’s not give them one by surrendering open looks from behind the arc.
- Nysier Brooks is hurt. We don’t know how bad it is, but it doesn’t appear to be severe. He may miss some time, but I don’t think it will be a season-ender, or anything close to it. I guess it’s “better” to lose Brooks than someone like Caupain or Clark, but he’s still a valuable part of UC’s depth and a crucial defensive piece that the Bearcats will need in March. Fingers crossed we don’t get unexpected bad news on this.
- Where were the students? After a fantastic showing against Xavier, the student section on Sunday was pretty abysmal. I won’t harp on this, because I hated when I was a student and alumni tried to call us out. Honestly, I’ve never seen it so dead for a conference game during the semester. It’s an abnormal problem. I don’t think it will continue. Please come back, kids. This team is special and it (still) needs you.
The Bearcats travel to Tulsa for a late game against the Golden Hurricane on Wednesday. UC lost there last season, and Tulsa has won five of six, so I don’t think they’re to be taken lightly. On Saturday, the UConn Huskies come to town, bringing some talent along with a pretty abysmal resume. It’s guaranteed to be a tough game, and the consequences will be steep should the ‘Cats falter.
I guess you could say this about any week for the remainder of the season, but the next couple games will be crucial in UC’s continued march towards a conference championship and a high seed in March.
Just keep winning.